Fort White bats go silent in state semifinals

The first state baseball semifinal appearance for the Fort White Indians ended rather quietly on Wednesday evening at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. 

The Indians (16-7) managed only three hits in the first six innings against Holmes County (Bonifay) before scoring a run in the final inning and sending the tying run to the plate before Colby Jones came in relief of starting pitcher Landon Lumpkin with two outs as the Blue Devils held off the Indians, 4-1. 

Holmes County will play in its second state title game but will go for its first state title Thursday at 7 p.m. against Bozeman (Panama City), who is also hoping to win a first baseball state championship. 

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Bozeman rallied past another first-time state semifinalist—Dixie County (Cross City)—8-4 in the earlier semifinal game. 

It looked like Fort White was going to get on the board in the opening inning after Jonathan Fischer brought home Tucker Hardee with what appeared to be a run-scoring single with two outs. 

But the home plate umpire instead called a balk on Lumpkin, sending Hardee back to third base and Fischer back to the plate. Lumpkin then struck out Fischer to end the inning. 

“Nothing against the umpire but the guy who called the balk had his back to the guy,” Fort White coach Rick Julius said. “There were two guys who had a better view and neither one of them said anything. But there are things you can control and not control.”

Fort White didn’t threaten much after that until the final inning. But Holmes County broke on top with a run in the third frame as Jake Riley led off with a double and later scored the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly to right field by Breydon Young. 

The Blue Devils (23-7) broke the game open a bit with three runs in the fourth to extend their lead to 4-0. Lumpkin brought in Sheldon Sparks with a run-scoring single to make it 2-0. Later in the inning, Nate Conner and Jones both came through with RBI singles with two outs to extend the Holmes County lead to 4-0. 

“They (Holmes County) made adjustments at the plate and we didn’t,” Julius said. “We made some adjustments in the last inning but we didn’t in the other six innings and Holmes County made adjustments right away.”

Zander Eyjolfsson singled in Chauncey Mays with two outs in the seventh for the only Fort White run of the game, and leadoff hitter Brad Sullivan came to the plate as the tying run. Sullivan grounded out to second and Fort White’s historic season was over. 

Despite that, there was plenty for Julius and his senior pitcher Fischer to be happy about. 

“We kind of set the standard now, with the underclassmen, and some of them played tonight,” Julius said. “They have been able to experience it now, and I think they will be better leaders now. Hopefully, this is a good learning tool.”

Fischer agreed with his coach.

“I know we just lost, and I’ve pitched my last game for Fort White, but I just can’t help but smile,” Fischer said. “We accomplished a lot this year and for the guys that will be here in the future I think there will be more success.”

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